These are, for the sake of space, paraphrased versions of the original arguments that I’ve seen floating around the internet, and some have been reworded to make them clearer. Included is my own commentary on why exactly each is racist, although most of them don’t need much explanation.
I talk about a couple character deaths in here, but I don’t think that really needs spoiler warning for a book that warns you on the BOOK JACKET that pretty much everyone dies. If you’re still worried about spoilers, don’t read ahead!
Here’s the thing. Rue and Thresh were made black for a very specific reason. Even though the books are not about race, they are there to show that race is still very much an issue in this world. Almost the entirety of District 11 is black, and they’re forced to do all agricultural duties (which mirrors some of the most evil parts of America’s history). So in this case, it doesn’t really matter whether you PICTURED the characters as black, because they were all-but-explicitly described as such, and there was a REASON for it. The difference between casting Rue and Thresh as black and casting a traditionally white character like Sgt. Nick Fury as black is that there is no reason Nick Fury CAN’T be played by Samuel L. Jackson. There’s no reason the character SHOULDN’T be black. Rue and Thresh, however, have EVERY reason to be cast as black, because their race has a message behind it. If you whitewash these characters, you’re losing one of the major points behind District 11, which is to show that the Capitol isn’t above that kind of racism. And the fact is, the casting of this movie isn’t done to please you. It’s done to tell the story the way the author intended it, and if you whitewash those roles, you’re removing part of her story.
And yet, from the same people:
So when the actor in question is black, playing a black character, you should have instead cast a white actor to “please more people,” but when the actor is white, playing a non-white character, the actor’s race doesn’t matter as long as they’re a good actor? This isn’t Lawrence Olivier playing Othello, people. This is trying to whitewash roles in which it is important to the story for them to be black, just because you personally didn’t pick up on the way they were described.
I already did a long post on this one, explaining how it’s a bit racist to think a black guy with an afro CAN’T be charming and handsome, and very prejudicial to say that with an Afro, he doesn’t look “Normal” enough to play Cinna, even though an Afro is the normal, natural way his hair grows.
It doesn’t, though, is the thing. “White” is not the default race for all people. Collins went out of her way to make sure Cinna could be perceived as any race. In his case, it doesn’t matter what race he is. He’s the catalyst for the entire revolution, arguably the most important character in the entire series, and it’s good that you don’t know what race he is, because that’s not what matters about him.
However, in a movie form, it’s impossible to make someone completely racially ambiguous unless you hide them completely (think V for Vendetta), because you have to have an actual actor stand in there, and that associates the actor’s race with the character’s. Which brings me back to the original point, “racially ambiguous” does not mean the same thing as “white.” A white person isn’t raceless, and so a raceless character should not NECESSARILY be cast as white. I’m not saying you CAN’T cast a white actor in the role, it just shouldn’t be taken as read that if you don’t know what race a character is, they should automatically be white. If you don’t know what race a character is, it shouldn’t matter what race the actor is.
First, I would like to direct everyone to something called the “Clark Doll experiment.” For those of you who don’t know, the Doll Test was a psychological experiment done in the 1940s in which children, both black and white, were seated at a table with two baby dolls, identical in every way except one: one was black and one was white. The children were then asked which doll they would like to play with (and why), and which doll was “the good doll” and “the bad doll” (again, and why). The children almost always selected the white doll to play with, labeled it the good doll, and called the black doll “the bad doll.” When asked why, the answers were almost all racial: the good doll was good because it was white, and the bad doll was bad because it was black. The test was repeated in 2006 with the exact same results.
However, some of you may be thinking “maybe the girl actually does look devious. Some little kids are mischievous trouble-makers, and that doesn’t have anything to do with race, that’s just kids being playful. Let’s make sure by taking a look at the girl in question:
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Christ! That is the sweetest little girl I have ever seen. “Devious” may be in the bottom 10 words I would use to describe this girl. She looks like she’d feel guilty if she took two candies out of a halloween bucket that said “take one.” If you asked me to describe this girl in three words, it would be “sweet,” “innocent,” and “Rue.” It is tearing me up inside right now knowing that I am going to have to watch this little angel die. I just don’t see how anyone could look at that little girl and think “devious” without some kind of discriminatory component. That just baffles my mind.
I do want to point out that these are all actual reactions I’ve seen people have to this casting. Sure, I rephrased them to make sure they fit on the picture, but they haven’t really been altered all that much.
By the way, I can totally understand if people don’t like Lenny Kravitz because of his acting skill. That’s a fair objection to have, not everyone likes every actor. However, when you more or less come out and say “I am against it because he is black,” you lose the right to complain when someone calls you racist.
All the decades of trying to get equal and fair media representation for PoC? Has to fight with what’s above, all the time. Networks and publishers and producers and executives cater only to the lowest common denominator in order to maximize the greatest profit. And the lowest common denominator is racist and proud of it.